SAN FRANCISCO — A jury on Thursday found a Mexican man not guilty of murder in the killing of a woman on a San Francisco pier that set off a national immigration debate two years ago.
Jose Ines Garcia Zarate was found guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm.
Garcia Zarate had been deported five times and was wanted for a sixth deportation when Kate Steinle was fatally shot in the back while walking with her father on the pier. Garcia Zarate did not deny shooting Steinle but said it was an accident.
A prosecutor said in her closing arguments Nov. 20 that Zarate waswhen he shot and killed Steinle in July 2015. San Francisco Deputy District Attorney Diana Garcia derided as implausible the defense argument that he accidentally shot a weapon he didn’t know was a firearm.
On Thursday, Steinle’s parents gave what they called their last interview to local newspaper San Francisco Chronicle.
“We’re just shocked — saddened and shocked … that’s about it,” Steinle’s father Jim said of the verdict. “There’s no other way you can coin it. Justice was rendered, but it was not served.”
Steinle’s brother Brad said he was “not surprised,” considering the “epic failure” that led Garcia Zarate to be released on the streets, and end up with a loaded handgun on the pier that day.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a statement Thursday night that mentioned Garcia Zarate wouldn’t have been on San Francisco streets had the city honored an ICE detainer.
“When jurisdictions choose to return criminal aliens to the streets rather than turning them over to federal immigration authorities, they put the public’s safety at risk. San Francisco’s decision to protect criminal aliens led to the preventable and heartbreaking death of Kate Steinle,” the statement read. “While the State of California sought a murder charge for the man who caused Ms. Steinle’s death — a man who would not have been on the streets of San Francisco if the city simply honored an ICE detainer — the people ultimately convicted him of felon in possession of a firearm.”
The statement ended with Sessions saying: “I urge the leaders of the nation’s communities to reflect on the outcome of this case and consider carefully the harm they are doing to their citizens by refusing to cooperate with federal law…